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Irs 21, Benghazi 17, The Irs 8, Donald Rumsfeld 6, Washington 6, Angie 6, Obama 6, Dan Pfeiffer 5, Mcconnell 4, Abu Ghraib 3, Clinton 3, America 3, Peggy 3, Kentucky 3, Peggy Noonan 3, Bob Woodward 3, Boris 3, Neosporin 2, Cincinnati 2, Alabama 2,
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  MSNBC    Meet the Press    News/Business. A moderator  
   interviews a leading public figure. (CC)  

    May 19, 2013
    11:00 - 12:01pm PDT  

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this sunday, damage control by the white house on several fronts. how much harm will it do to the presidential's second-term agenda? president obama under a cloud of scandal, as congress bears down on irs officials who targeted conservative groups. >> this week confirms everything that the american public believes. this is a huge blow to the faith and trust the american people have in their government. >> the key questions now -- who initiated the targeting and why? who else in the administration knew? and why was congress misinformed for so long? with us this morning, the president's senior adviser, dan pfeiffer, the republican leader in the senate, mitch mcconnell
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of kentucky, and the man leading a congressional investigation into the irs, chairman of the house ways and means committee, dave camp. and later the political fallout from benghazi and the justice department seizure of phone records from the associated press. plus former secretary of defense donald rumsfeld returns to "meet the press." this time he's out of office and weighing in on the big issues in "rumsfeld's rooms: leadership lessons in politic, war and life." >> announcer: from nbc news in washington, the world's longest running television program, this is "meet the press" with david gregory. good sunday morning. tough week for president obama. one columnist wondering if the president like president clinton before him could actually emerge stronger from all of this, while others see the swirl of the controversies making it harder for the president to succeed with his second-term agenda. includish health care reform.
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the president is going to address congratulations at moorehouse college this morning. and thursday he'll deliver a speech on counterterrorism. here this morning one of the men trying to direct a response to all of these controversy, the president's senior adviser, dan pfeiffer, a man who has been with the president since his 2008 campaign. dan, good to have you here. >> thank you for having me. >> i've been reading that the white house wouldn't spend more than 10% on these controversies. jay carney, the president secretary, dismissed the idea these are scandals at all. is that the president's view that these are nothing more than mere sdrikzs, distractions? minor distractions? >> there's no question there's a very real problem at the irs. it's a problem that needs to be addressed and that it never happens again. that's why the president has asked for the resignation of the acting irs commissioner, and we appointed an acting commissioner and do a 30-day top-down review and make sure this never happens again and those who did wrong
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are held accountable. >> you don't buy the theory there's a big cloud, scandal over this president? >> no. we've seen this from the republicans before. what they want to dom is try to drag washington into a swamp of partisan fishing expeditions. we're not going to let that happen. the president has business to do for the american people. >> we're going to hear from dave camp, the acting official who is now dismissed. this is one of the things he said. i want to get your reaction. >> listening to the "nightly news," this appears to be an example of coverups and it seems like the truth is midden from the american people just long enough to make it through an election. >> how do you react to that? >> there's no evidence to support at that. the first time the white house was aware of this investigation was a few weeks ago when our office was notified it was happening. at that point, we had no idea what the facts were. let's be very clear. it wasn't just the white house. congressman issa has been aware of this investigation since before the election.
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he didn't say anything publicly for very good reason. as he said, you want to make sure you actually have facts before you raise allegations -- when you are talking about a nonpartisan entity like the irs. >> but there was information during the course of the election year about potential targeting. do you not see the white house falling down on the job, the administration failing to look into something that is so incendiary? the idea of targeting political groups? >> it was looked into by the inspector general. that's how the process should work. now we have a report. the question is what are we going to do about that report? and make sure it doesn't happen again. >> could the administration have done something independent of what the inspector general is doing? that's my question. >> no, we have a cardinal rule in these situations, which is you don't interfere in an independent investigation, you don't do anything to give the appearance of interfering with an investigation. we took the exact right steps. the appropriate steps there. >> you talk about a gop play book. you made a comment that said "gop overreach" which was to michele bachmann. there isn't a weekend, she said,
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there isn't a weekend that has gone by when people haven't asked me about impeaching obama. when you commented on that, is that you going on the offense saying this is the gop overreaching? or is this something you're actually concerned about? >> there is no question that republicans are trying to make political hay here. we have to know what the facts are. if the independent inspector general's report said two things that are very important. one -- that there is no evidence that anyone outside of the irs influenced this conduct here and, two -- that he did not believe there was political motivation. the conduct was outrageous and shouldn't have happened regardless of motivation but the idea to try to turn this into something -- congressman steve king from iowa, leading republican, said that benghazi was watergate and iran-contra times ten. everyone needs to take a deep work and solve the problem, and not try to score political points.
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>> should the president have known sooner about the irs? >> no. as i said, we do not do anything to give the appearance of interfering with an investigation. what would be an actual scandal, is fe were involved in this somehow. we handled this the right way. >> you're a communications professional as well. you never want a president of the united states coming out and saying i just learned about this from news reports. it doesn't look like someone is large and in charge of his administration? >> in this situation that's exactly what you want. you don't want the president involved in an independent investigation with an agency with an independent stature like the irs. that would be inappropriate. >> quasi independent. the treasury department does oversee this. and the secretary could have done more. this is not completely walled off. not exactly like not interfering in a criminal investigation in the justice department, for example. >> it's treated that way because a president once in a white house got involved in the irs and led to the greatest political scandal in our history. the head of the irs was a bush appointee. and the acting commissioner was a career civil servant.
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and, of course, the acting commission sir a career civil servants. >> the other question is should congress have been warned? receiptedly misinformed? look at this exchange questioning going on in march of 2012. watch. >> we've seen some recent press allegations that the irs is targeting certain tea party groups across the country, requesting what have been described as onerous document requests, delaying approval for tax exempt status. can you give us assurances that the irs is not targeting particular groups based on political leanings? >> let me start by saying, yes, i can give you assurances. as you know, we pride ourselves on being a nonpolitical, nonpartisan organization. there's absolutely no targeting. >> now that's not true. there's not evidence that mr. schulman did know at that point. why was congress repeatedly
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misinformed? >> actually, as we learned just the other day, congress was informed. congressman issa, who requested the original probe on this. >> last fall? >> last fall. and the congressman did an interview on monday where he said he was pretty much aware of what the report was going to say before it came out. so he was aware. now, i can't speak to what former director shulman knew. i think the acting commissioner former commissioner schulman. the acting commissioner talked about that. >> and here was her argument, she said the media and congress are sleuthing for some hint that mr. obama picked up the phone and publicly suggest that conservative political groups were engaged in nefarious deeds, publicly call out those he needed harassed and pressure
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the irs to take action. is that valid? >> no. some republicans here are desperately looking to make political hay. i mean, don't take my word for it. take the word of the independent inspector general who said there was no evidence of influence outside of the irs led to this. >> were other democrats pressuring the irs to look into 134 of these groups on either side? conservative or democrat? >> there are people who have raised question about how these 501(c)(4) organizations work. but as it relates to the white house and administration -- >> i remember abu ghraib and people said abu ghraib happened we'll dock to donald rumsfeld later, in an atmosphere that was countenance by the administration. not hard to see how that happens. you have a president who is campaigning against these groups in many ways, campaigning against supreme court decisions that allowed these groups on the left and the right. and bureaucracy to be recused by
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that. is there anything valid about that? >> i don't think so. i don't think that's what the inspector general found and this president finds this conduct deplorable. he tooks the steps he should take right away. this should never happen again. this is a breach of the public trust. we have to work together to rebuild the trust. do it in a serious way and not a bipartisan way. >> let me ask you about benghazi, the attack on our consulate, four americans killed. the president is making it clear he thinks this is a political hit job by republicans. do you acknowledge any mistakes made in the course of communicating to the public by benghazi, about benghazi or responding to the benghazi attack? >> we acknowledge what happened in benghazi was a tragedy. the independent board led by it would have our leading nonpartisan figures, ambassador pickering and admiral mullen and they said there are a lot of steps to make sure this never happens again. we're going to take those steps. those the political hiccups. here's the evidence that proves the republicans, playing politics with this. they received these e-mails months ago, didn't say a word about it, didn't complain, confirmed with the cia director
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o is the context of which were provided right after that. and then last week a republican source provided to john carl of abc news a doctored version of the white house e-mail that started this entire fury. you know they're getting desperate here. >> you have the president who claims that he called it was it was at the time. an act of terror. a term we don't have the to debate. at the same time, the administration in terms of publicly of an interview he gave to cbs, in addition to what is going behind the scenes is doing his level best to take out reference to a particular terror group involved, to evidence of prior warnings of our security. i mean, there's was an effort and a lot of -- to either downplay this, critics would say, or to be very cautious at a time when a lot of information seemed to be known. >> if you look at the e-mails, they tell you three things that are very important that undermine all the republicans allegations.
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first that the allegations were not included. included by the cia. two references to the al qaeda were removed by intelligence community, not the white house and the cia. and three, the heart of your question, what we were trying to do at the time was get it right based in a very challenging environment with shifting information at the same time to protect the invet grate of the inve investigation that was going to happen to ensure that we brought justice to the people who committed this heinous act. >> the phone record for the a.p. is an issue. the attorney general will stand by the white house fully? >> the president has faith in attorney general holder. our cardinal rule is we don't get involved in independent investigations, and this is one of those. as general principle, we want to balance, national security leaks are dangerous. people that put the lives of our intelligence officers, our military at risk. but, two, we have to do it in a
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way in a balances freedom of press, which is why the president called on congress to pass the media shield law. >> which is sort of convenient, and i wonder if the message to congress is, put up or shut up. if you're going to criticize me for not being involved, why don't you put up a law that better protects journalists. is that the message he wraunts to send? >> the message is, the president supported this law for many years. there's been republican opposition to it. all of a sudden, they've develop add fierce advocacy of the press. this is an opportunity to do that. >> i want to turn to senator mitch mcconnell of kentucky. senator, welcome back. >> good morning. >> let me get right to it and start on the irs. >> why don't you accept the word from not only white house officials but from former acting commissioner who said these were foolish -- about conservative groups, but not a political agenda? >> actually, there is a culture of intimidation throughout the
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administration. the irs is just the most recent example. let me recount a few for your audience. over at hhs in the obama care debate, the secretary sent out a directive saying they couldn't inform policyholders of what they thought the impact of obama care would be on them. now she's trying to shake them down for contributions in effect to a group to go out and try to convince the public that they should love obama care. over at the fcc, efforts by obama appointees to shut down or make difficult the people who are seeking to buy advertising to criticize the administration. over at the sec the obama appointees have been engaged in an effort to make it difficult for corporations to exercise their first amendment political rights. the irs, coming back to the krirs -- irs -- the head of the union at the irs gives 99% of her campaign money to democrats. she openly criticizes the republican house for trying to reduce government spending and has specifically targeted tea
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party groups in her public comments. it's no wonder that the agents in the irs sort of get the message. the president demonizes his opponent. the head of their union, demonizes -- >> senator, that's a leap can that you can make as argument, but you don't have -- you can create -- i asked dan pfeiffer about it. do you have any evidence of what the president directed intimidation to target political opponents? >> i don't think we know what the facts are. >> that hasn't stopped you from accusing. >> what we're talking about here is an attitude that government knows best, and the nanny state is here to tell us all what to do, and if we start criticize, you get targeted. >> let me stop you for a minute. it is interesting. going back to -- >> david, let me finish. david, let me finish. the investigation has just begun.
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so i'm not going to reach a conclusion about what we may find, but what we do know happened is they were targeting tea party groups. we know that. >> we do know that. the question is how it initiated, who initiated it and how high that goes. >> sure. that's why you have investigations. >> right. it interesting. the larger issue here, as some have pointed out, is the exist of the 501(c)(4) groups. they are involved in politics but they're also involved in some kind of social good. seems only conservative groups were targeted, and they are involved in politics but also in some kind of social good, and i guess sthats in the eye of the beholder. you were asked about this issue way back in 1987. i want to play for you what you said then and ask you if it's resonant today. >> there are restrictions now on the kinds of activities that, for example, a 501(c)(3) and (4)
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organizations can engage in. they're being abused not just by people on the right but most of the so-called charitable organizations who are involved in political activity in this country who are, in my judgment, involved in arguable violations of their tax-free status and violations of the campaign laws happen to be groups on the left. so that is a problem. >> so that was a problem then and some of arguing it's a problem now as well. out of all of this do you see more tax reform that addresses whether any of these groups should be tax exempt? >> it's not whether you have to go back 25 years to find a quote. what we have seen here is an effort on the part of the government to make it difficult for citizens to get organized and to express themselves. there's an effort here also to make sure that you can get their donor list or their membership list. it's reminiscent of naacp versus alabama back in 1958 where the state of alabama tried to get
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the membership list or the donor list of the naacp. the supreme court said under the first amendment freedom of association you can't have it. there's an of the here in congress called a disclose act to try to get at the donors of these groups. ip was wrong 25 years ago. i've been right for the last two decades. the government should not be trying to intimidate citizens who criticize the government from exercising their first amendment rights. and that's what is at the heart of this and that's what the irs apparently was doing by making it difficult for citizens to get a legitimate tax exempt status. >> but i'm saying, should these groups, if they're that politically involves, and that's what you identified 25 years ago if they're that politically involved, they shouldn't have tax exempt status. should the tax code be simpler in this arena to eliminate these questions? >> no. i don't think so. i think the citizens groups have a right to organize, express themselves and not have their donor list subject to political
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supervision. and oversight, but there's no question, it's clear now, 25 years ago it wasn't clear, but it's clear now that the reason these donor lists and donors are trying to be revealed is so the federal government can target them and shut them up. >> let me ask you about these a.p. phone records. this is probably one area where i imagine you would actually be supportive of what the administration has done, despite some of the criticism because you've expressed your outrage in the past and you've pushed for an investigation of national security leaks. >> actually, i do think these national security leaks are very important, and it looks to me like this is an investigation that needs to happen, because national security leaks, of course, can get our agents overseas killed. >> so you don't think that this is a scandal plaguing the administration, and are you sportive of attorney general eric holder in light of all this? >> what i am supportive of is investigating national security
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leaks that endanger americans around the world. >> so would this qualify, this seizure of a.p. phone records? >> what i -- we don't know yet what has happened here. what i do think is that national security leaks that endanger americans around the world are a serious matter. >> i'm just asking, you have no reason then to doubt or do you what the attorney general did actually did endanger lives in this case in. >> what i'm saying is national security leaks that endanger americans around the world are a serious matter. >> okay. including this one? >> any time you're leaking national security information, if it endangers americans around the world, it's a serious matter. >> i think it's clear what you're saying. i want to move on to benghazi and questions republicans have been asking about this. if you look at this as objectively as you can, it appears to be an episode on the failure of the administration to adequately secure an overseas outpost, diplomatic compound at a time of war when we have been involved in getting rid of
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gadhafi in libya and perhaps at the very worst some effort by the administration to spin what the actual cause was of the attack. why does it go anywhere beyond that? >> well, that's not insignificant. i mean, the fact that the personnel there were not adequately secured is not insignificant. >> right. >> clearly we didn't have enough security there to protect our ambassador and the people on the ground there. >> right. but republicans are talking about a massive cover-up. the president has said that's very significant, but republicans are talking about a massive cover-up. they're talking about impeachment. i mean, all of these things that seem sort of over the top with regard to what's happening here. >> i don't think i've said any of those things. i think you're talking about others may have said various things about this. let me tell you what i think about it. it's clear that there was inadequate security there, and
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it's very clear that it was inconvenient within six weeks of the election for the administration to, in effect, announce that it was a terrorist attack. i think that's worth examining. it is going to be examined. and it's important, you know, this is the first time we've had an ambassador killed in the line of duty since the late 70s. >> i want to clarify this, because you are the leader of the senate. you are one of the leading republicans in america. would you call on republicans who talk about impeaching the president or who talk about this as a nixonian style coverup with regard to benghazi, would you like them to stop it? >> what i think we ought to do is complete the investigation and find out what exactly happened. and i think we, have a sense of what happened. we know there was inadequate security, we know an american ambassador and three other brave americans got killed, and we know the administration kind of made up a tale here in order to make it seem like it wasn't a terrorist attack.
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i think that's worthy of investigation and the investigations ought to go forward. >> but do you have specific evidence that they made up a tale or was it based on information they had at the time? >> well, the talking points clearly were not accurate. and i think getting to the bottom of that is an important investigation. >> i just want to come back to this because i think it important, you made a point of saying what you have not said about all of this. there are republicans in an organized fashion, accusing the president of being nixonian, comparing it to water. isn't that overblown? >> i think it's important there is an investigation under way. >> your colleague from kentucky, rand paul, says benghazi singularly should disqualify hillary clinton from being president. is that your view?
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oenchts, my. >> oh, my goodness. the 2016 elections are way too far away. >> right, but the question still stands. >> look, we're in the process of investigating a number of different investigations, all of these things are important to take a look at and we're going to do that. >> do you think that hillary clinton was culpable for what happened in benghazi? >> i think we'll find out when the investigation is completed who did what and who knew what and when. >> will this -- these issues, all of them, two of them that you are concerned about, will they be fodder for your campaign next year? do you think it important for republicans to campaign on these issues to target president obama and democrats? >> you know, i don't know what the issue will be next year. if i were predicting what's likely to be the biggest issue in the 2014 election, i think it would be obama care. i think it's coming back big time.
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and by the way, the irs has a role to play in the implementation of obama care, which is another reason why if we have the opportunity to do it, we ought to pull it out root and branch, the single worst piece of legislation that's been passed in modern times in this country and the american people are beginning to learn as the premiums go up, as jobs are lost, the full effect of this on our slow growth economy has been enormous. i think that's likely, frankly, david, to be the biggest issue in 2014. there may be others. and some of these issues may arise as well. >> leader mcconnell, i always appreciate you coming back to answer the questions you like and the ones you don't like as well. i appreciate it. we'll see you soon. >> thanks. >> coming up, the man leading the investigation into the irs on capitol hill said friday that the recent revelations about the agency are just the tip of the iceberg. so what more is there? dave camp, chairman of the ways and means committee will be here. plus our political roundtable and the larger implications of
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all this. chairman of the caucus, congressman zayre yer becerra, peggy noonan and a man that's no stranger to scandal in washington, bob woodward. later, my conversation with donald rumsfeld. he joins me live. it's all coming up here on "meet the press." later, my conversation with donald rumsfeld. he joins me live. it's all coming up here on "meet the press." [ female announcer ] birdhouse plans. nacho pans. glass on floors. daily chores. for the little mishaps you feel use neosporin to help you heal. it kills germs so you heal four days faster. neosporin. use with band-aid brand bandages. neosporin. nehey!r! [squeals] ♪ [ewh!] [baby crying] the great thing about a subaru is you don't have to put up with that new car smell for long.
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we we're back. i'm with the roundtable. i want to begin with congressman dave camp, republican from
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michigan, and chairman of the house ways and means, leading the investigation of the irs. you heard dan pfeiffer, who reacted and talk about a culture of cover up. intin dags. intimidation. your thoughts about what he said? >> it is tough stuff. americans are targeted for their beliefs and it went on for years. the thing about this, officials at the treasury knew about this a year ago, officials at the irs knew about this two years ago, congress has been trying to get answers for two years and we were stonewalled. >> stonewalled by the irs, it appears? >> yes. frankly, this is an audit. we still need to have the investigation. there's still a lot we don't know. >> but congress requested the i.g. investigation, which you got. you were aware of that, you initiated it and even got some preliminary results about it that darrell issa referred to.
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>> no, we weren't aware of it. this is an audit, not an investigation. but the question is why after repeated hearings and letters to the agency when high-ranking officials in the agency knew about it, why did they not come forward? because americans were targeted for their political views, what books they read, what the contents of their prayers were, did they know anyone running for political office? i don't care what your political strife, but they only targeted conservative political beliefs. so it is a -- >> which people have stipulated is simply outrageous on both sides, including the president. as people try to figure out what government can and can't do in certain instances, what would you have had the president do, and the secretary of treasury do? there are hundreds of audits. imagine the scandal if the president tried to intervene or even fire someone before the results of an audit were completed. you agree you'd be pretty mad about that? >> there's one thing to meddle, but there's another thing to know about it.
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the question is, not only what people knew, but what show they have known. >> if the president knew more earlier, what would have come of that? >> hopefully it would have been stopped sooner. it went on for 18 months. >> but it was being investigated. i guess you're saying before even an audit was happening, you would have wanted to know what happened? >> two years ago the director of the exempt organization division knew of this. again, did anyone up the chain know about it? we don't know that yet. that's why we have a lot of questions to still answer. we don't know who started this, we don't know why it was allowed to continue for so long. as one of the newspapers reports, a person in that cincinnati office said, we don't do anything without direction here. >> you have a credible reason to accuse the president of knowing about this targeting? >> we don't have anything to say that the president knew about this. in fact, he says he learned about it on television. that may be the case. but we need to know who started this and why it was allowed to continue. >> before i widen this out, both
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using the irs unfortunately for political reasons goes back many administrations, republican and democrat, and we came across something when it came to resolving some of the ambiguity in the tax code from the "new york times," look at this headline. this goes back from october of 1927. "seek to simplify income tax law as joint committee of congress hopes to make phraseology of the act clearer." does this mess, does this political targeting give some new impetus to resolving ambiguity in our tax code to the issue of who should be tax exempt? >> i think in a general sense, i think a lot of people feel the tax code is broken. it's not fair. it's inefficient. it's so complex. the average family should be able to fill out their own tax forms and file them. they can't now. it takes the average american 13 hours to comply with the code, 6 billion hours in terms of compliance.
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i think we need a fairer, flatter, more efficient tax code. the ways and means committee has held more than 20 hearers on this. we're working together. we've had the first hearings together in more than 70 years. i think a more efficient and flatter and fairer tabs code would help the economy and help people get the work they need and also maybe get higher wages if they're already working. >> let me go around the horn now with xavier becerra, bob woodward and peggy noonan. bob woodward, you're no stranger to these controversies in washington. how has the administration handled this this past week? >> first of all, people are making comparisons to watergate. this is not watergate but there are some people in the administration who have acted as if they want to be nixonian, and that's a very big problem. >> who and how? >> pardon? well, i think on the whole benghazi thing. you look at those talking points and, i mean, the initial draft
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by the cia very explicitly said we know that activists who have ties to al qaeda were involved in the attack. and then you see what comes out a couple of days later and there is no reference to this. this is a business where you have to tell the truth and that did not happen here. >> peggy noonan, you wrote something that struck me in your column on friday. i'll put it up on the screen and ask you about it. "we are in the midst of the worst washington scandal since watergate, the reputation of the obama white house has gone from sketchy to sinister. they don't look jerky now, they look dirty. the patina of high-mindedness the president enjoyed is gone. it's gone." i have to say, peggy, what you don't talk about here is an administration for a man that
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you work for who led the iran-contra scandal with iran, the secret war and lied to congress and all the rest. overstatement here? >> i don't think so. i think this is -- what is going on now is all three of these scandals makes a cluster that implies some very bad things about the forthcomingness of the administration and about its ability to at certain dramatic points do the right thing. and i got to tell you, everyone can argue about which of these things is most upsetting, but this irs thing is something i've never seen in my lifetime. it is the revenue gathering arm of the u.s. government -- >> peggy, wait a second. >> -- going after political -- >> richard nixon specifically directed people to investigate to audit people. of course we've seen it in our lifetime. >> but this is so broad and extremely abusive to normal u.s. citizens just looking for their rights.
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>> no questions about the egregiousness of it. >> if it doesn't stop now, it will never stop. and the only way it can stop is if, frankly, a price is paid, if people come forward and they have to tell who did it, why they did it. when they started. >> i'm struck that peggy seems to be more critical than senator mcconnell was on this program, who clearly did not want to use comparisons to watergate and nixon and the like. >> the president said it was inexcusable what happened at the irs. serious mistakes were made, it was wrong, and we have to make sure it never happens again. the president already said i'm cleaning up shop. this cannot happen again in one of the agencies that we must have trust in. but, as we investigate, you we
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in search of answers, or are we in search of scandals? it's a different thing to say what happened in cincinnati with the irs goes all the way to the white house. there is no evidence. in fact, the inspector general who looked into this at the irs said there was no political motivation involved. and quite honestly, i agree with the young senator mcconnell. the reason we have this problem is because we have a tax code that allows groups to use their political operations within the tax code under the guise of a charity to use undisclosed millions of dollars to do political campaigns. >> i think he would resent that remark, the young mcconnell, even if he agreed with you. look, there's some news this morning, a new cnn poll that has the president's approval rating in operaty good territory, but also a view there is not an overreaction on the gop, whether on the irs or benghazi and a view whether it's the irs, benghazi or the a.p., a majority saying these are very important issues for the country. so as a matter of how much, congressman, this infects the rest of the president's agenda,
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what do you see? >> well, i think that obviously this may increase the need for tax reform because the complexity of the code is such that it's a problem. but let me just in answer to what xavier said, there's nothing in the code or nothing in any supreme court decision that says the irs should target americans for their beliefs. we still don't know who directed this and we're trying to move forward in a bipartisan way to find out answers. again, for two years we've been seeking answers and didn't get them. >> can i say -- it's interesting how bureaucracies operate. do they take cues from the president? i use the abu ghraib example. do you think that's a fair criticism here? >> i think you have to step back and say what's the theory of governing here? and the theory is, it seems, oh, there are investigations of the irs so we can't interfere. there is this leak investigation of the a.p., so we can't get
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involved. oh, there is an investigation of benghazi so we're not responsible. the president and the executive branch need to govern on a daily basis, and you can't purchase immunity from governing. >> but you can't equate all those things, bob. >> yeah, you can. >> no. you can't say that it's okay to tell the president, to tete the attorney general in a criminal matter, what are you doing? >> but there is a policy issue here, do you issue this broad-based subpoena on reporters? >> but the president can't interfere with that. >> but you need to have a policy set down and there is proper communication between the attorney general and the white house counsel on matters like this. >> is he president or not? i mean, ultimately, these are executive agencies, which are proving so deeply problematic. >> peggy, you cannot mean the justice department. you cannot mean the justice department. >> i'm not sure what you mean. >> isn't that what watergate was
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in part about? directions of people to be fired, we can't have that kind of political interference. right? >> i'm not even sure what you mean. >> you can't tell the attorney general not to investigate something or to investigate something. that's the law. >> fine. and if you find out the attorney general went too far and you are the president, can you say i think he went to far? i think there are real problems here, we've got to look into it? that's not the thing. the irs thing is really the thing. that involves -- >> the president said it went too far. so those two -- the top officials, the irs acting commissioner is gone. the president -- >> but how are we going to get to the bottom of what happened? >> absolutely, let's get to the bottom of it. its investigate the facts. >> to prevent it from happening again, i think we need to know how it happened. i think a lot of people are asking who's watching the store? and is the level of managerial oversight that it rises to the level of wrong doing? i think that's the issue. >> and how at this point do you try to get to the bottom of who directed what happened at the irs? because it is a very important
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question. >> well, we do need an investigation. there is going to be a continued investigation by the inspector general, as well as congress, congress will continue to look at this, bring people forward and get their testimony. >> you agree to a special commissioner, like a former aide, robert gibbs, has suggested. >> why not an independent council? i watched the other day. i saw mr. miller, the soon to be former head of the irs, look at congress and be essentially unresponsive. be essentially, gee, somebody was responsible. i don't know the name. yes, maybe i can get the name for you. that gives you a sense that maybe congress can't get to the bottom of this. maybe an independent council would be a better route. >> some institutions have a no surprise rule. which is -- you need to make sure the person at the top, who is the president in this case. he is constitutionally responsible for the whole
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executive branch, to be told about things that are going on that are bad. and you can't kind of say, oh, that happened last year and they're investigating. you need to stop the bad things right away. >> and the difficulty is this criticism of passivity, as you all are suggesting, and i'm challenging you with the other side of that argument but the idea that he is still in charge of the government, has accountability and has to project accountability as we ask all presidents to do. >> in the irs case it doesn't seem passive. i have to tell you. i think wonderful king strauss of the "wall street journal" is correct. the president wasn't passive on that. he was giving final word to people who could launch this thing. >> under this scenario, a no-win situation for the people. if he had gone into this faster, people would say he's intruding into a separate investigation. >> i have to take a break. i have a special visitor, donald rumsfeld, talking about "rumsfeld's rules." former secretary of state
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secretary of state. i'll go one-on-one with him about some of his views, facing this president, including the alarming number of sexual assaults in the military. he'll weigh in on that after this break. i want to make things more secure.
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and we're back. for our remaining moments, joining me,author and we're back. for our remaining moments, joining me,author of the new book "rumsfeld's rules: leadership lessons in business, politics, war and life," former defense secretary donald rumsfeld. mr. secretary, welcome back. you have such an interesting distinction here.i member presid
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you a matinee idol and now you're soon to be a great grandfather. that's quite a combination. >> it's exciting. >> i want to ask you about a very disturbing subject within the military that, of course, you've worked with over for so long, and that is sexual assaults in the military. some of the reported accounts when you were secretary and reported and estimates, a much larger number and the alarming rise between 2010 and 2012. and the issue at hand here is, what should the military do about it? does it have to change the way these crimes are reported at the chain of command and go outside of that to a special prosecutor? what would do you? >> i don't know that a special prosecutor is the answer, but there is an argument that can be made for handling them in a way different than they're being handled because they're serious. and i would suspect that an awful lot of them don't even get reported. that's probably true in the public sector, private citizens as well as in the military. >> right.
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>> but it's a terrible thing. there has to be zero tolerance. and it appears that something different is going to have to be done, and i wish i knew what the answer was. i don't. people have simply got to not tolerate it. >> what about the culture in the military? is that a major part of contributing to it? >> people talk about that and talk about athletic teams and male environments. i don't know the answer to that. i don't think -- there's certainly nothing about the military that would contribute to it in terms of the purpose of the armed forces. but i don't know the answer and i think they better really land all over people that are engaged in any kind of abuse of that nature. >> there's so much happening in washington and you are a veteran of so much controversy, even in your most recent position with the bush administration.
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you write this from the book, "if you foul up, tell the boss and correct it fast, mistakes can usually be corrected if the organization's leaders are made aware of them and they are caught up early enough and faced honestly. bad news doesn't get better with time. if you have fouled something up, it's best to tell the boss first." >> that's true. >> accountability, whether it's irs or questions about benghazi, who is accountable? how do you assess that in these cases? >> in these cases i don't think they know yet. clearly the president, and in the case of benghazi, the secretary of state. that's the way life works. but what bothers me about it is that two things really concern me, one, you think of a manager, a leader. when something like that happens, you call people in, you sit them down and you let them know that you intend to find ground truth fast. and he seems not to have done that. the other thing that's worrisome is, as they say, truth leaves on horseback and returns on foot. what's happening to the president is incrementally trust
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is being eroded, because of the different messages coming out. you know, it important that you avoid the early reports, because they're often wrong, and you have to get people in, find ground truth and then communicate that as fast as you can. to the extent information goes out that proves not to be accurate, presidents and leaders lead by persuasion. and for persuasion to work purely by command, you have to be trusted, and to the ex-stent trust is eroded, as it is when stories get changes and something more is learned and it kind of incrementally destroys your credibility, i think that clearly is a problem. i was worried, for example, i came back from being ambassador of nato when president nixon had resigned and president ford was in office. and the reservoir of trust had just been drained during that experience that we went through. >> you saw that first hand. >> i did. >> with president bush, a reservoir of trust in your leadership and that of the vice president and that of the
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president, and, of course, the iraq war, in a trust eroding. do you see parallels here or more sympathetic or less inclined to the critical? >> anyone looking at those jobs have to know they're tough jobs. clearly. and when you've got one big problem, it's a big problem. >> right. >> when you've got two, it's like ten. when you have three, it's a problem. >> right. >> it's a perfect storm in there right now and those jobs are very difficult and there are a lot of things that make them even more difficult. >> but former vice president cheney said that they're lying in the administration. do you think that's overly harsh? do you think we know that that's true? >> he may know something i don't know. all i know is that the story has changed repeatedly on benghazi. i don't know anything about the a.p. story. it seems to me until we have some sense of that, we can't even begin to make a judgment. but i think people looking at
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the changed stories on benghazi and the way the talking points were altered are of a view that they were trying to support a narrative that in fact did not exist. >> we're going to take a break here. more from you on our web, incidentally. we'll be back right after this. look what mommy is having. mommy's having a french fry. yes she is, yes she is. [ bop ] [ male announcer ] could've had a v8. 100% vegetable juice, with three of your daily vegetable servings in every little bottle.
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[ slap! ] [ slap! slap! slap! slap! ] ow! ow! [ male announcer ] your favorite foods fighting you? fight back fast with tums. calcium-rich tums starts working so fast you'll forget you had heartburn. ♪ tum tum tum tum tums mr. secretary, thank you very much. you are going to stick arou mr. secretary, thank you very much. you are going to stick around here. we're going to do an extended conversation about your book, including a chapter entitled "meeting the press." i may show you that old picture i have of you from 1974. viewers can see that on our website. also, a note -- you can watch this week's press pass conversation with author and historian rick atkinson. that's on our blog meet the press on nbc.com. that's all for today. if it's sunday, it's "meet the press."
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good sunday afternoon. i'm craig melvin. you're watching msnbc, the place for politics. >> there is no question that republicans are trying to make political hay here. >> obama communications adviser dan pfeiffer insisting its gop overreach. looking at what's in store in the days ahead for the administration as they try to clean up a week rot with scandal. >> some of you are graduating summa cum laude. some of you are grade waiuating magnum cum laude. i know some of